Fungal endophytes of the genus Epichloë live symbiotically in cool season grass species and can produce alkaloids toxic to insects and vertebrates, yet reports of intoxication of grazing animals have been rare in Europe in contrast to overseas. However, due to the beneficial resistance traits observed in Epichloë infected grasses, the inclusion of Epichloë in seed mixtures might become increasingly advantageous. Despite the toxicity of fungal alkaloids, European seed mixtures are rarely tested for Epichloë infection and their infection status is unknown for consumers. In this study, we tested 24 commercially available seed mixtures for their infection rates with Epichloë endophytes and measured the concentrations of the alkaloids ergovaline, lolitrem B, paxilline, and peramine. We detected Epichloë infections in six seed mixtures, and four contained vertebrate and insect toxic alkaloids typical for Epichloë festucae var. lolii infecting Lolium perenne. As Epichloë infected seed mixtures can harm livestock, when infected grasses become dominant in the seeded grasslands, we recommend seed producers to test and communicate Epichloë infection status or avoiding Epichloë infected seed mixtures.
Keywords: Epichloë spp.; Lolium perenne; alkaloids; cool-season grass species; grass endophytes; horses; infection rates; livestock; perennial ryegrass; toxicity.